Wednesday, 27 June 2012

How to Draw a Horse’s Head

A lesson on drawing a horse head is a great stepping stone into portraiture as animals are a slightly more forgiving subject matter yet offers lots of visual interest. A good photograph of a horse and good quality soft pencils are the requirements. In this lesson, grey drawing paper, or Ingress paper has been used.

Requirement for Drawing a Horse in Easy Steps
How to Draw a Horse
Rachel Shirley
When it comes to drawing anything that presents a fair amount of detail such as a horse, setting aside at least an hour or so of uninterrupted time will increase the likelihood of a satisfactory drawing. More time will be required if undertaking a horse painting. For this drawing exercise, the following art materials was used:
  • Soft pastel pencils. Watercolour pencils or graphite pencils of 2B to 4B are also ideal for shading. Black, dark grey, cream and a white chalk pencil will provide an array of shading tones and highlights for grey paper.
  • Grey paper or any mid-toned paper can be used. Some grey papers have a slight texture such as Ingress paper.
  • A soft eraser.
  • A scalpel or sharpener.
  • And a good quality photograph. An image of a horse head under good quality light will reveal contours of the horse’s face. Avoid shooting into the light or of taking the photograph on a misty day or poor light. Get reasonably close up and ensure the focusing is spot-on. This will reveal the horse hair and detail in the eyes.
Step One: Drawing the Horse’s Negative Shapes

Firstly view the horse’s head outline as an irregular shape rather than as a horse’s head. It might help to draw a faint rectangle on the page in order to ‘frame’ this shape. Within this frame, negative shapes will be easier to make out. A negative shape is the shape of the background around the subject matter itself. Turning the photo and the drawing paper upside down will help make the task a little easier. I applied light strokes via a sharpened HB pencil. A hard nib could create unwanted impressions on the paper; a soft pencil could make mistakes difficult to erase. If experiencing difficulty in drawing the outline of the horse’s head trace the main features or use an enlarger.
Step Two: Shading Highlights to the Horse’s Head

I began with the highlights of the horse’s head. I lightly brushed the chalk pencil over the pale fur and around the face itself. I viewed the subject matter not as what it was, but as a series of light shades. I moved the pencil in the direction of the horse’s fur. As can be seen, the pencil marks mirror one another on each side of the horse’s face. I sharpened the pencil to express the highlights in the eyes and the detail around the snout area.

Step Three: Darker Shades of the Horse

I was careful not to allow the chalk pencil to go over the darker areas, which I expressed with a mid-toned pencil. I used a grey watercolour pencil. You don’t have to add water to it, but use it for shading. A soft pencil is preferable as the delicate mid-tones can easily be expressed by a few soft strokes from the nib. In this case, I worked the grey pencil around the contours of the horse’s cheekbones, the underside of the fur, beneath the eyes and around the snout. Looking for the most subtle tonal shifts and expressing them is more likely to result in sensitive drawing. Stand back from the drawing periodically to ensure the areas of light and shades accurately portray what is seen on the photograph.

Step Four: Working into Detail

Finally, I worked the pencils with a little more pressure once I was happy the tonal shapes were reasonable accurate. With a sharpened white pencil, I reinforced the highlights in the eyes and the extreme highlights of the fur. In similar fashion, I worked a sharpened black pencil over shadows in the fur, the eyes, ears and the shadow beneath the horse’s head. The areas between the horse’s features such as the nose and cheekbones comprise a series of abstract shapes, which if accurately recorded will result in a convincing portrayal of the horse’s features.

Shading Techniques for Horses

Watch out for poorly-observed tonal shifts that could cause the drawing to jar. Is it gradual, or abrupt? The areas around the reigns exhibit sharp detail, where the tonal shifts on the fringe are gradual. The areas around the horse’s snout exhibit a bit of both. I took extra care over this area, as the shadows were quite convoluted. Notice paler areas within the dark recesses of the nostrils.

Corrections can be made by working over the area concerned before going too dark. Be careful not to use the eraser too vigorously or the unwanted pencil marks could work onto the fabric of the paper.

The Final Touches of the Horse Drawing

The last touches will often make or break the drawing. I shaded a little background around the horse’s head to give the subject matter a sense of space. I also neatened off the horse’s outlines, such as the strands of fur on the mane and around the shaded area on the side of the head.

Tutorial on Drawing a Horse’s Head
My book on how to
draw. Click to buy from
The secret to drawing a horse’s head is to get the negative shapes right. I drew a faint rectangular shape in order to ‘frame’ these negative shapes. I then worked on the pale shades of the horse head with light strokes via a chalk pencil. I then worked on the darker areas with a mid-toned or grey pencil. Both tonal shapes must exhibit reasonable accuracy with the photograph. Look out for the contours between the horse’s features, such as the cheekbones and bridge of the nose. Standing back and viewing the drawing as a whole will help highlight accuracy issues with the horse. Finally, I worked into detail, reinforcing lights and darks with increased pressure on the pencil. A sharpened pencil is essential for detail around the fur, eyes and snout.

More Articles on Creating Horse Art Other Animals
Troubleshooting painting a horse's head
How to paint white fur
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Monday, 25 June 2012

Where to Find Ideas for Abstract Art

Looking for abstract ideas for painting may help create new ideas for art previously unthought-of. Even the most mundane objects can be made into abstract art forms if viewed under certain conditions. Patterns in nature and close-up studies often bear little relation to the subject matter from which it was derived. But how can such abstract forms be made into art?

Where to Find Creative Ideas for Art in Abstract Forms

Ideas for Abstract Art
Rachel Shirley
Abstract art, non-representational or non-figurative art basically encompasses art that explores line and colour for its own sake. This might be to represent emotions or colour exploration.

The beginner may be encouraged to look for interesting abstract shapes by looking at things in particular ways. The first thing to do is never discount anything, no matter how little it may first offer. Try the following techniques whilst looking for fresh ideas for art studies:

Look for any contour or shape that repeats itself within a view, such as shadows, clouds or contours of a building. Examples of repeating or echoing contours might be mackerel sky, a kissing gate, the upper branches of a tree or a suspension bridge. Notice how the repeating shapes shift slightly as it recedes or when viewed from different angles.

Finding Abstract Ideas for Art

Try looking at object close up. The texture of orange skin, satin cloth draped over a chair or eroded brickwork might spur ideas. You don’t need a magnifying glass to do this, simply enlarge an image or by partitioning off part of an image with a viewfinder and enlarging just that aspect. Objects viewed close up will take on new forms.

Surreal Ideas for Art

Try looking at the background as though the foreground. Seemingly insignificant objects or non-solid elements take on new meaning when viewed as a focal point. This might include shadows, mist or shifting hues within the sky. Treat the non-solid as though it were solid.  Don’t overlook background aspect in favour of the foreground/main subject matter.

Negative Shapes in Painting

Look for ‘negative shapes’ within a view and use them in a painting. Negative shapes are the shapes of the background as seen through foreground objects. A negative shape might be a section of sky seen through the window of an old tin mine, or a wall through a cup handle. Negative shapes can take on interesting or convoluted forms, ideal for abstract studies. Be sure to view the negative shape from different angles to find the most interesting view.

Conceptual Art from the Mundane

A wrought-iron park bench can look interesting under stark lighting conditions and if viewed close up. Discarded toys viewed from directly above may take on unfamiliar forms yet retain their bright colours. View objects through other objects such as glass, mirrors or water. Disparity between a distorted and non-distorted view will encourage the viewer to look at objects in new ways.

Reversal of Colours

Upload an image and reverse the colours. This can easily be done in Paint, a standard imaging programme that is usually found on most PCs. Just click on ‘image’ and then ‘invert colours.’ Zoom in on an image to find further ideas. Some images exhibit lots of contours in one particular area yet not much elsewhere, otherwise overlooked. An image featuring muted colours could suddenly appear dazzling.

Abstract Composition for Painting from Magazine Cuttings

Take a magazine image of interest and cut it into pieces. Shift the pieces about and see what happens. Interesting compositions will often present themselves previously unthought-of. The pieces may be completely shuffled about or each piece shifted slightly from their original positions; the latter could create the illusion of shattered glass. Again, the pieces could be cut into any shape and/or size. Of course, images of existing abstract art can be used, such as those by Miro or Kandinsky.

Ideas for Surreal Art

Ideas for abstract or surreal art can be found in everyday objects or images with a particular approach. Look for repeating patterns or accentuate a feature; view objects close up; make the background or non-solid elements the focal point of a painting; look for interesting negative shapes, or reverse the colours in a photograph. Play around with cut-up magazine images. Any feature that seems to bear significance can be used as the subject matter for non-figurative art.

Further Articles on Abstract Art

Paint your first abstract
How to make colours advance and recede
Should I insure my paintings?
Build confidence in painting

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Learn to Paint Sunlight and Shadows Impressionist Style

Learning how to paint dappled sunlight offers challenges in color mixing as some colour contamination is inevitable. But look at any Impressionist painting and dirty colours will be evident. It is the solemn colours that make the pure colour appear bright, as in the case of a sunlit scene.

Art Materials for Painting Dappled Light and Shadow

How to paint dappled light
Rachel Shirley
Pure colours are essential if bright and solemn colour mixes can be achieved. Recommended pigments (in oils, acrylics or oils) are: white, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow (pale), pthalo blue (or Winsor blue), ultramarine, permanent rose (or carmine red), viridian, burnt sienna and burnt umber. Other colours can be added.

Several art brushes of various sizes are needed to dispense with the need to repeated washing between colour mixing. Soft brushes, such as sable sizes 3, 6 and 12 may come in useful. Larger fan brushes or (in the case of opaque paints) bristle brushes sizes, 6 and 12. Prefer the filbert to the flat, as these will not leave harsh brush marks.

The preferred art surface (which might be watercolour paper, primed card or stretched canvas.

Secrets to Painting Sunlight

Unless painting from life, a good quality photo is essential. Avoid bleached out images that give little visual information of the sunlit areas, and similarly, under-exposed photos that reveal little within shadow. Several photos of a sunlit scene would be better. The photo might ideally show dappled shadows over a lawn, patio table or figures beneath a tree. If painting from life, ensure there is plenty of time to capture the scene before the light changes. This often means speedy painting.

Colour Mixing Exercise with Complementary Colours

When painting a scene that presents both bright colours and dark shadows, practicality dictates to begin with the bright colours. Unless working on a watercolour, consider applying a neutral-coloured underwash before embarking the painting, as this will reveal the true tonal value of any given colour. Bright yellow will appear heavy on a white surface.

Create Mood to Painting

Work on the bright colours first, which can be found within the dappled sunlight. Don’t work too thickly initially, but sketch the pigments on in a thin glaze. In the case of oils or acrylics, don’t add too much water or oil first off. With a separate brush, similarly sketch in the darker hues, but don’t go too dark yet. Colour mixes that can often be found within sunlit scenes will vary, but might include:

Burnt sienna and white; viridian, lemon yellow and white; cadmium yellow and white; lemon yellow, pthalo blue and white; lemon yellow, permanent rose and white or lemon yellow, ultramarine and white.

Other colours will often be seen on sunlit areas which might be grass, paving slabs or retaining wall. Look for subdued colours within sunlit areas, and also neutral colours. When expressing sunlit areas, evaluate:

The colour temperature of the area (it is warm or cool?)
Its colour saturation (is it brightly-coloured or rather neutral?)
And its tonality (is the sunlit area a little darker or paler than the neighbouring area?)

Colour Mixes for Shadows

Dark shadows will often consist of complementary colours to the sunlight, which will shift towards blues and violets. The following colour mixes will often be found:

Burnt umber and ultramarine; burnt sienna and ultramarine; permanent rose and ultramarine; pthalo blue and viridian; pthalo blue and burnt umber; pthalo blue and permanent rose.

Varying amounts of white may need to be included if the mixture is too dark. Judge the shadow colour in similar way as the sunlit colours just mentioned.

Soft Effects for Dappled Light

Of course, dappled sunlight does not comprise exclusively light and dark, but also half-tone. These half-tones are essential in bringing authenticity to the sunlit painting. Cleaning the brush and blending the lights and darks will result in soft half-shadow that will vary in softness within various areas. When expressing these half-tones, evaluate:

The softness of the half-tone – does the half-tone shift gradually from one tone to another, or does it veer sharply from dark to light? Gradual shifts can often be seen if the shadow is cast from far off, such as the uppermost branches of a tree.

Is the half-tone smooth or patchy in its appearance, as can be seen if leaves cast shadows from close-by?

Does the half-tone exhibit bright colours, or muted tones? Bright violet colours can sometimes be seen in dappled shadows, as can greys.

Art Techniques for Dappled Sunlight

Exploring various techniques for painting will help bring interesting effects to a painting of sunlight and shade. Mere alla prima (working on one paint layer) will often result in brisk and expressive brushmarks. Impasto can be used on the bright colours to make them appear to advance. Palette knifes can also add textures to the paint. Working in various colour dilutions of watercolour washes will create broken effects, particularly if some of the white paper shows through in places.

How to Paint Dappled Sulight

Exploring the tonal and chromatic shifts of light as can be seen in dappled sunlight on a bright day offers various challenges in colour mixing and close observation. This means evaluating colour saturation, tonality and how one colour shifts from one to another. Often experimentation of painting techniques will create interesting and unexpected results. A productive session on art often means trying colour applications that do not always go as expected and learning from it.

Articles on Learning Painting Techniques

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Cheap Easel for Artists to Last a Lifetime

Easels can be essential if completing large paintings, but can be costly. Saving money on easels is possible with a little knowledge about the types of easels available and finding the one that meets individual needs.

How to Save Money on Artist Easels

Firstly, don’t purchase the first easel that seems to fit requirement, as some provide extra features that may not be necessary. The best easel is one that suits individual needs without the fuss. To ensure the best easel will be found, conduct some research first. Basically, easels are divided into 2 types: standing easels and table easels. Are the paintings really too big for a table easel? If not, a substantial amount of money could be saved on purchasing an easel that is really superfluous to requirement. Let’s take a look at table easels first.

Types of Table Easels

Not every table easel is the same, but most will provide an adjustable angled surface on which to rest the painting. This means that the painting may be completed whilst the artist is seated, like a draughtsman. Some desk easels provide drawer compartments in which paints and brushes can be stored.

A more compact version of the table easel is the pochade box, which opens up like a Netbook. A slotted compartment protects wet paintings during transit. The table easel will accommodate paintings up to around 2 feet square. The pochade box (known as the cigar box) is designed for small sketches. Both the table easel and the pochade box can be folded compactly. Don’t purchase cheap desk document holders or display easels that may not provide a stable surface for the painting.

Standing Easels for Large Paintings

Artists that prefer to stand and paint or to work large may find the standing easel more suitable. Paintings in excess of 2.5 feet on any one side may require a standing easel. The types of standing easels are:

French easels: the most lightweight type of standing easel. The French easel is designed for the mobile artist that prefers to stand and paint. For this reason, the French folds compactly, but could become unstable in the wind. Adjustable screws on each leg means the easel can stand on uneven or sloped ground. Some come with travel bags for extra mobility.

The A Frame easel, otherwise known as a tripod easel: is a little heavier, and therefore provides a more stable support for paintings. With an adjustable ratchet system, the easel’s height and angle can be fine-tuned to suit artist needs.

Studio easel or H-frame easel: is designed to be a permanent fixture as it is quite heavy and sturdy. Paintings in excess of 4 feet on one side or can be used with the H-frame.

Cheap Easels to Suit Student Budgets

Watch out for unnecessary features on the easel, such as detachable artboxes, palettes or a high finish that may make the easel costly. Really the easel’s sole purpose is to provide a sturdy surface whilst providing flexibility in angle and height adjustment. Second-hand easels work just as well as a brand new one, and may be easy to find on Ebay or art schools. Don’t be put off by a tatty appearance, as it can be cleaned up. When purchasing a second-hand easel, look out for the following:

  • Signs of damp or infestation in the wood, such as woodworm.
  • Check that the thread on each butterfly screw is not worn out.
  • Ensure the folding device works properly.
  • Check that the painting support does not keep slipping downwards or sideways with minimal force.
  • Check the legs are stable and not rickety.
Remember, an old easel can easily be smartened up with some sandpaper and elbow-grease. Hardened oil paint can be whittled off with an old palette knife. A little olive oil can be wiped over the easel to renourish parched wood.

Saving Money on Art Easels

Money can be saved on easels if firstly thinking about artist needs. Purchasing an H-frame easel to serve small oils would be unnecessary, as would one with lots of unnecessary gadgets. A much cheaper table easel would serve watercolors or small sketches. But even then, large easels need not be costly if simply looking for something to offer a stable support for oil painting. An old, second-hand easel will work as well as a new one so long as all the butterfly screws tighten as required and the legs are not unstable. Old wood can easily be cleaned up, but watch out for damp or woodworm. Lengthen the life of the easel by storing in a dry place.

More Articles on Art Materials

How to make oil painting cheap
Make art brushes last longer
Guide to artist pigments

What Art Materials do I Need for Watercolor Painting?

Watercolors is one of the most popular art mediums for the paints are compact, clean to use and requires only water to make it flow. But with such an array of watercolor pigments and associated art materials, the hopeful watercolorist may wonder where to begin. When it comes to embarking a watercolor class, what are the most essential watercolor colors and brushes to buy?

Tips for Watercolor Painters

Firstly, avoid cheap watercolor paints of the sort to be found on the market. The pigments may have weak tinting strength or tend to become gritty or fade. Always invest in tried and tested watercolor brands that have passed the testament of time and artist evaluation. Briefly, Water color paints comes in 3 forms: pans (pigments in a tablet form); these are good for compactness and the travelling artist. Tubes; these are popular with artists who wish to use large quantities of paint for washes over a larger area – small 37ml tubes will go a long way. Or watercolor pencils; ideal for obtaining sketchy effects, but which the pigment will run into washes if water is added.

Best Watercolor Paints

Winsor & Newton’s Cotman or Daler Rowney’s Aquafine ranges are ideal for the beginner as they offer value for money but retain high quality. Reeves can also be sampled. The more costly artist quality watercolour range has a larger range of pigments some of which are produced in the traditional way.

Essential Hues in Watercolors

There are countless watercolor pigments to be found; the Winsor & Newton Artist range lists around 96 colors. However, the watercolorist does not need all these colors. Watercolors can often be found in sets, but which some colors are redundant. To obtain the best range, it might be best to purchase the colors individually, although this might work out a little more costly. Crucial pigments to include are: ultramarine, cerulean, pthalo blue, viridian, permanent rose, cadmium red, burnt sienna, burnt umber, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow (lemon, or ‘pale’). Additional colors might come in handy, such as: alizarin crimson, Naples yellow, Hooker’s green, violet and ivory black.

Can White be used with Watercolors?

The translucent nature of watercolor means that the potency of the wash will determine how pale the color will appear, which could make white redundant. Similarly, highlights will be expressed by the absence of color on the paper – masking fluid can be applied to the area concerned. However, some artists use Chinese white to make the color appear paler but this can cause a milky appearance to the pigment. It is down to personal preference, but some artists combine gouache paint with watercolors to attain an opaque color mix or add punch. Gouache, by the way is like watercolor, but the pigment is blended with chalk. White gouache might be a better choice than Chinese white if expressing solid highlights.

Advice on Watercolor Paper

Care should be taken that thin paper is not used for watercolors, as these tend to buckle. This means that print paper or everyday cartridge paper would not be ideal. Proper watercolor paper comes in various thicknesses, denoted by ‘weight’. 300 gsm (or grams per square inch) is quite stiff. Again, watercolor paper can be found in various textures, such as ‘rough’ which as the word suggests, has a high texture. This sort of paper has been ‘cold pressed.’ ‘Not’ is medium-textured, and if smooth texture is required, ‘hot pressed’ paper would be ideal. Langdon, Bockingford and Cotman papers can be found in these ranges. Watercolor boards can also be used. Watercolor ‘blocks’ are watercolor pads where the papers within have been glued around the edges, dispensing with the need to stretch the paper.

What Watercolor Brushes to Use

Watercolor Materials
Rachel Shirley
Don’t scrimp on brushes, for these are essential for exacting watercolor techniques. Brush Sizes 00, 1, 4, 6 will suffice for an array of detail; a 1 inch flat or fan brush is ideal for washes. Riggers, a long, thin brush is optional, but may come in useful for expressing tree branches, or indeed, rigging on ships. Don’t use stiff brushes designed for oils or acrylics or delicate washes will be hard to achieve.

Additional Art Materials for Watercolor Techniques

It is down to personal taste, but the following art materials may come in useful for the watercolor painter:

  • A HB – 3B pencil, sharpener (or scalpel) and putty rubber. Avoid hard rubbers or pencils in the H range as these are harsh and may damage the paper.
  • Masking fluid and an old brush for application.
  • Backing board and bulldog clips on which to affix the watercolor paper.
  • A ceramic palette with depressions on which to mix the watercolor paints. These can be purchased in artshops. An old ceramic saucer can be used.
  • An old eye-dropper or pipette for feeding water in small amounts to the pigments.

If wishing to stretch the watercolor paper, gum tape will be needed.
An old tool box (cheaper than an art bin) with tiered compartments in which to keep the watercolor materials will make watercolor painting more portable. A portfolio with large plastic wallets will help keep artwork flat and clean.

Essential Art Materials for Watercolor Painting

The beginner watercolor painter need not spend lots of money on art materials. A mere 10 – 15 essential pigments will produce just about any color needed; with brushes and paper, this lists all where quality is essential. The other equipment could be found in the home or in a DIY shop at a cut-price.

Related Articles on Learning Art

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Art Class Idea: Drawing Exercise on Close ups

People of low drawing ability may benefit from a specialized drawing exercise to help build confidence. Drawing close-ups of an object takes away prescriptive rules of perspectives and makes the object appear less recognizable. This means drawing exploration is made more possible.

Drawing Lesson Plan Idea for Beginners

The great thing about drawing an object from a close up view is that the object takes on abstract qualities. An object that has convoluted areas such as a rose also appears simplified as the contours are more widely spaced apart. This can be seen in Georgia O’Keefe’s studies of flowers. Take a look at any object close up and it no longer resembles the object itself. A hairbrush, a mobile phone or a running trainer no longer looks like what they are.

Art Resources for Drawing Lesson on Close Ups

In order to complete a drawing from a close up view, select object(s) of choice and produce a close up study by the following means:

A photograph blown up.

A chosen image cutting or photo viewed through a frame or viewfinder. An adjustable viewfinder can easily be made by cutting two L shaped pieces of card or paper and arranging them into a frame shape on top of the image. Moving the pieces of card closer together will create a partitioned view of the image. Moving them further apart will widen the view of the object.

A chosen object can also be drawn from life. The use of a magnifying glass can be used as a visual aid.

Ideal Objects to Draw Close Up

As previously mentioned an apparently-complex object will appear simplified when viewed close up or viewed in its part. Reflections in glass, a fuchsia head, corrugated plastic or creases in fabric can be simplified in this way. Other ideal objects to draw from life close up might be: tin openers, handbags, iron kettles, hairdryers, hands, feathers, seashells, sponges, cutlery, earphones, spectacles and zips.

Close ups or partitioned views of photographs can be used by the means of cutting out a particular area or viewing the photo through the aforementioned frame. Ideal subject matter to draw as a segmented view from a photograph are: tower blocks, suspension bridges, trees, playing areas, shadows on roads, a crowd of people, lightning, icecaps, glaciers, bomb sties, football stadiums, royal elements, Tudor cottages or even part of an artist’s painting. Cezanne’s still life studies or Matisse’s figures might spur ideas.

Drawing Exercise to Build Confidence

Honing-in on an object will often simplify the object’s forms. Loose, linear work can be employed to reflect this view. HB to 3B pencils will make possible an array of tones. Various drawing techniques can be used to complement close-up studies, such be crosshatching; a method of making linear marks to suggest tones. Overlaying a series of lines with another series of lines will make the tone appear darker.

Another technique is shading an area and then suggesting highlights by wiping off selected pencil lines with a putty-rubber. Drawing on toned-paper, such as Ingress paper will make possible the expression of highlights with a chalk pencil first-off. Darker tones can be achieved by the use of black pastel pencils.

How to Loosen Drawing Style

It might sound strange to suggest standing back from the drawing will help gain an overall view of the close-up study, but it is true. Viewing any drawing far away will help highlight inaccuracies or issues that may remain invisible if viewed close up. Having said that, producing a drawing of an object from a close up view will take away the need to make the object ‘look’ recognizable. Drawing close up studies of objects is the ideal drawing exercise for those who have low self-belief in their drawing ability.

Further Articles on Learning Art

Drawing Exercise to Improve Visual Memory

Drawing what is perceived rather than what is seen in front is the enemy of the artist striving for realism. To combat this perceptual imbalance, students may practice drawing an object from life by the use of recall after a short time-lapse.

Art Lesson Activity: Drawing a Picture from Memory

How to Draw from Memory
(Sketch of a Young Child)
Drawing an object involves looking at the object and then looking down upon the paper in order to record what is seen. Of course, whilst the artist is looking down, the subject matter in front is not longer being looked at. Drawing accurately means retaining what has been seen and transferring this information down onto the paper. But in many cases, a short term visual memory can interfere with the accuracy of the drawing.

How to Get Better at Drawing from Memory

In some cases, the artist forgets to keep looking up at the object, with the result the drawing is sourced more from memory (or what is perceived) than what the eyes see. Inaccuracies in the drawing only become apparent when the drawing is viewed as whole once the drawing has been completed. With this in mind, how can this drawing problem be combated?

Exercise into Drawing Accuracy

Exercising visual memory during the drawing stage can help. This exercise ‘reminds’ students to look at the subject matter in order to retain the visual information whilst looking down onto paper. A simple object or photograph depicting contours may be used initially. The subject matter might be a cup, a glove or even a life model. A photograph might be used instead, which may depict a landscape, an abstract form or something else of interest.

Simple Drawing Exercise

Practicing visual memory entails the following method:
  • Place the visual reference/photo or subject matter in a room.
  • Place the drawing paper outside the room. It might be pinned onto an easel or placed on a table.
  • Instruct students to go into the room where the subject matter is located. Observe a chosen aspect of the object which is to be recorded as the drawing’s first line.
  • Walk out of the room and draw the line observed.
  • Go back into the aforementioned room and observe the next feature of the subject matter.
  • Walk out and draw the next line.
  • Repeat until the drawing is completed.
If accuracy is in question, take another look at the subject matter and correct as necessary. The subject matter may be referred to as many times as necessary but the drawing paper and the subject matter must never be in the same room.

Exercising Visual Memory for Art Schools
Retaining visual memory of contours and features of the subject matter during transit from the room is the point of the exercise. With practice visual retention of what is seen will improve. This means the time lapse between ‘looking’ and laying it down in pencil. Challenge can be provided with more complex subject matter and with increased time lapse –a longer distance to travel between the drawing paper and the subject matter. Of course, never be too ambitious in the first instance.

Articles on Drawing Methods

Exercise on how to draw a sphere
Simple art demo on drawing buildings
How can I erase a mistake from my painting?